NEIL MARSHALL:CENTURION INTERVIEW
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Writer and Director Neil Marshall came onto the scene with his fascinating take on the werewolf myth with DOG SOLDIERS. Since then he made the Lovecraftian, DESCENT and the heavily MAD MAX influenced, DOOMSDAY. I was given a 20 minute opportunity to interview him for his upcoming movie, CENTURION.
"Besides the blood, the gore, of course, there was no makeup. Mike (Fassbender) and the others were really that cold."
ECM: Hi Neil. it's a pleasure talking to you. I came onboard with DOG SOLDIERS. I love that movie.
NEIL: Really? Well thanks.
ECM: It's a fresh riff on the werewolf myth.
ECM: It's known that you were inspired by Stephen Spielberg's RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.
NEIL: I went to see Raiders when I was 11 years old and that was it. I knew I wanted to be a director. I didn't know how, but I was going to do it.
ECM: Did you already have stories in mind? Your own stories?
NEIL: I began making Super 8 films, so I got into all of it. I wrote the story I set up the shoot, the actors, the editing, everything, I did it. Being a kid, I just immersed myself in it.
ECM: Because of Spielberg's inspirational movie, you consider yourself an action director first.
NEIL: Yes. People call me a Horror director, but really I've only done two Horror movies, DOG SOLDIERS and THE DESCENT. I'm not sure I want to be a Horror director, a genre director. I know I don't only want to do those things, though directing action movies might be in my blood. I like watching non-action movies but for me, I enjoy directing (action movies). Very much.
ECM: You bring a real sense of place in your movies. I'm a caver/spelunker and in THE DESCENT, I was impressed enough that I didn't realize the cave was really a set.
NEIL: I have this fantastic production designer, Simon Bowles (DOG SOLDIERS, THE DESCENT, DOOMSDAY). He's just fantastic in the way he creates the realism in a movie. When we made the set to THE DESCENT, he wanted all of these tight spaces, these crannies and uncomfortable angles and edges. We wanted our actors to crawl through and be uncomfortable like a real cave. We wanted the cave to LOOK like a cave, and when Simon designed it we thought, why would anyone build it any other way?
ECM: Well you fooled me. I thought I was looking at the real thing.
NEIL: That's great. Thanks!
ECM: With CENTURION you brought out all of these minute gritty details from the exteriors and interiors of the Roman forts right down to the interior of Arian's home (played by Imogen Poots). Tell me about the effort that goes into this.
NEIL: We really work hard on it, providing the little things, taking our time with it. As much as the budget will allow, we want to build it all right there.
ECM: So no cgi then?
NEIL: No. Blah! Green screen! I can't stand it! I'll use it only if I have to, if there's no other way. But if I can, I'd rather find it in the world somewhere or build it myself.
ECM: Well it looks it. There was never a moment in CENTURION where the background or foreground looked fake.
NEIL: Thanks. It was a lot of hard work, especially in that weather.
ECM: Tell me about the weather.
NEIL: On some days or nights it got down to 15 below, blistering cold! But I had a great team and we loved it. Maybe we loved not liking it (laughs). We liked the toughness of it.
ECM: There were a few times in the movie where I was sure I was seeing real cold red cheeks and noses instead of makeup.
NEIL: Yeah! Yeah. Besides the blood, the gore, of course, there was no makeup. Mike (Fassbender) and the others were really that cold. I'd tell them, "Okay, in this scene I need you to look really cold!", and they would look at me like, "Oh, shut up!" (laughing).
ECM: Yeah, there are a few close-ups of Dominic (West) where he looks like he's just going, "Brr-r-r-r!"
NEIL: Yeah. And I'd say, "That looks great Dom, great! Do that some more!" or I'd tell Mike, "Fantastic! You look like you're really cold! Now in this scene, you all jump in the water!" (laughs).
ECM: (laughs) So you have Michael Fassbender and Dominic West from 300 in CENTURION. 300 also used an action Horror ethos to tell the story. But where that was fantasy surrealism, CENTURION adheres to a gritty realism. Was CENTURION as realistic to the period it tells? Did you slip in fantasy elements?
NEIL: I tried not to. 300 was all about that green screen again and it worked there, but that wasn't the story I wanted to tell. I wanted to be as realistic as possible. Of course, nobody really knows about the Picts because they had no written record. We only have a few of their possessions. Most of what we know of them is in history books written by someone else, usually the Romans.
So I studied as much of the period, a lot on that period, as I could. I compared, sort of, to other tribal people of the area at that time, and tried to come up with the best, I guess most accurate version of what the Picts must have been, that I could.
This interview copyright 2010 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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